Marijuana in VT: What's the Deal?

marijuanaVERMONT— In 2016, the Vermont Senate passed a comprehensive bill to legalize and regulate marijuana, but ultimately the bill didn’t pass. 

This year, a new bill regarding laws on marijuana was introduced to House. This bill (H.170), would allow adults in Vermont to possess up to a specific amount of marijuana. 

Senator (R) Joe Benning of the Caledonia County district was a sponsor for last years bill (S.241) and explained the changes that reflect H.170

 “We’ve added some provision for home grow and extended the ‘legalization’ component out to January of 2019,” said Benning. 

When asked about concerns regarding home grown marijuana in relation to black market sales, Benning explained how at the end of the day, the state is trying to curb black market activity.

There is always a concern for increased sales, but for that reason we have strengthened the penalties for illegal sales," said Benning. "Hopefully those who grow enough will seek a license to sell to the retailers, which will provide additional funds through license fees and taxes."

While Senator Benning is not a user of marijuana, but has been in favor of legalizing the drug since 1975 when he was falsely arrested for possession. 

“Although the charge was later dismissed and the record subsequently expunged,” said Benning, “it left a lasting impression on me that our ‘War on Drugs’ was an abysmal failure.”

Senator Benning also feels that legalizing marijuana will not effect its current use in the state.

“We are already one of the highest,” said Benning, “with an estimated 80,000 people who use on a regular basis according to the Rand Report.”

However, what the bill will do is set up a regulated system where users can safely purchase cannabis and also receive education on how to use it. Benning stated that the profits made from marijuana sales can be raised for education, prevention programs and also law enforcement efforts. 

When it comes to getting educated, Senator Benning encourages Vermonters to learn everything they can about all bills that the Vermont legislature deals with. 

“The fact is that a substantial number of Vermonters have been using cannabis for a very long time and we currently have no control over it,” said Benning. “My point is that ‘legalization’ is not going to change what is already going on. Our bill is an attempt to get control over that.”

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